Thursday, April 08, 2010

Zhou Tie Hai by Christina Xiong

Artist name: Zhou Tie Hai by Christina Xiong

Zhou Tie Hai, a local Shanghainese artist who works from his Moganshan Lu studio, is one of the leading conceptual artists in China. Although he was originally trained as a painter and designer, Zhou Tie Hai is more known for his satiric representations, and “poking fun at the absurdities lurking behind China's contemporary art scene”(ArtZine). After visiting his “Desserts” collection at MOCA Shanghai, I became deeply impressed by his ability and love for “conceiving ideas”. Unlike other artists, he does not paint his own works. Instead, the entire process includes conceptualizing an already-existing piece, directing his staff to create digitized replicas and to alter certain aspects of the original work to fit his own concept. All of the computer-generated images are done by his staff, which makes me wonder, for a man who admits that he doesn’t know how to use Photoshop, how is Zhou Tie Hai so successful?

Besides his unique implementation and perfection of air-brush painting styles from the 1990s, Mr. Zhou is an essential figure to the “emergence of Western modernism” (Allen) and influence in Chinese contemporary art. Compared to his compatriots, Zhou Tie Hai could be considered as revolutionary. Whereas local artists of his time portrayed Communist ideals, from Mao Ze Dong to “red guards with Coke bottles, Zhou created fake Western art and news magazine covers” (HoneWatson) Perhaps his most well-known works are the “Joe Camel” paintings, in which the head of this American cigarette icon is affixed to a variety of settings, from a European noblewoman to more recently, Koons’s “Michael Jackson and the Bubbles”. I believe that it is this rebellious nature and creativity of the artist, along with public’s openness and desire to see Western elements in Chinese art, that made Mr. Zhou one of the most influential artists today, even internationally. He once said, "The way foreigners thought about Chinese art was too simple," he said. "They just thought about politics. So I thought I'd do something different."

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